When Christopher Columbus arrived in the new world and landed on his rowboat... the natives could not see his ship out at sea!
Their familiarity with their environment and the ocean in particular was such that they couldn't perceive the ship (something they had never even imagined before). An elder medicine man that had the flexibility of perception had to describe the ship to his fellow tribesmen before they could see it.
This same familiarity applies to how we perceive our breathing.
To the ancient Indian system of Yoga, breathing is considered to be so important that before any task a yogi first prepares his/her breathing. Proper breath control is considered the key to healthy living. In fact, learning to do proper diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety permanently.
Our breathing is something that we have become so familiar with that we are almost completely unaware of its effects. Consider this, our breath bridges our conscious and unconscious i.e. unconsciously we are always breathing and at any time we can consciously focus on our breathing.
This is important to remember because all our emotional states are reflected in our breathing. If we are stressed our breathing tends to be shallow and focused in our upper lungs. In fact jerky breathing itself will actually increase anxiety and stress. While when we are relaxed we tend to breathe fully into our belly. Knowing this you can observe yourself and know when its time to consciously take control of your breathing to control your stress.
Practicing belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) can be extremely beneficial and can be done anytime. Just follow this simple method... Sit or stand with your back straight, put your hand on your belly and breath in a slow and deep pattern. Don't try to overfill the lungs or empty them - just breath softly but fully - expanding your belly on the inhale and contracting on the exhale. Keep your attention focused on your breathing. You will find that your mind will tend to drift. That is normal. Simply return your attention to your breath when you notice you got distracted. Allow the relaxation from this breathing pattern to spread through your body and just enjoy yourself.
This next one may come as a surprise to you... stress can cause the blood to drain from your forehead!
This is a natural biological response to remove blood from your brain to your body so you can fight or run (the famous fight or flee mechanism). This is perfectly fine for when we roamed the plains but in modern day living we don't need to fight at work or run away from it. We have to learn to not only cope but to excel.
Fortunately there are two points on your forehead, that in the ancient Chinese system of Acupuncture are called the 'neuro-vasculars'. If you hold these points lightly, with a little deep breathing, they will bring the blood back into your brain!
These points are located about one inch above the center of your eyebrows. To make sure you got it, put the palm of your right hand on your right sight of your forehead so that the 'ball' of your forehead is in the center of your palm. Same for the left side. Breathe deeply while holding lightly.
The 2-minute stress relief technique is simple.
When you feel stressed, angry, nervous, under pressure etc. Sit down with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Hold your neuro-vascular points while doing diaphragmatic breathing. In 2 minutes, you will feel more relaxed and clear headed.